Two years of hope for substance use recovery

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The Nashville Police Department’s Hope Initiative has just finished its second year. For those who are not aware of what the Hope Initiative is, let me give a quick recap. It is an Angel program that encourages individuals with any type of substance use disorder to come into the police department and start their journey toward recovery.

Our first year saw over 100 participants enter the program, which kept us quite busy. In our second year we had over 200 participants enter the program. As of Feb. 9 — our anniversary date — we have had over 320 HOPE Initiative participants seek help through our program.

I am often asked “how successful is the program?” This, of course, is a difficult question to answer, but let me try.

Of the 320 participants who have come through the program, 271 have detoxed, 155 have been placed into a long-term residential program and eight of those were individuals who were incarcerated and released from jail to attend treatment programs. As we have tracked as many participants as possible, fewer than 60 have returned to use.

We have had 192 men and 128 women. We have helped 260 participants with opioid use disorders, 21 alcohol use disorders, nine stimulant use disorders and 30 other substance use disorders.

We have raised almost $65,000 from grants, fundraisers and generous donations from citizens and businesses alike. We have a dedicated volunteer base that helps with finding resources, compassionate listening and transportation issues.

We have been recognized by Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein as having a model program that helps anyone in the state and beyond with their disease. We have helped countless families with their struggles of having someone in their family who has this awful disease as well. We do this with compassion and commitment to assist those seeking a path to recovery.

Based on that information alone, I would say we have been extremely successful. But there is an old cliché that I think is appropriate here. “Even if we have helped one person, it was worth it!”

Innumerable lives have been saved, crimes have been deterred and families have been restored all based on the work of the Hope Initiative.

The struggle is not over — not even close. North Carolina loses almost four citizens each day to an overdose. We must continue to do the following to help reduce this number: Reduce the stigma attached to this disease, offer viable options and reduce barriers for those seeking treatment, work on prevention to help reduce the number of young people becoming addicted and support enforcement of those who are distributing this poison to our communities.

Thomas Bashore is chief of the Nashville Police Department, whose Hope Initiative was the first police-assisted recovery program in North Carolina.